Lessons Learned from Creating a Writing Challenge

As many of you writers out there who read my blog may know, April was the first 2019 CampNaNoWriMo, a preparation ‘bootcamp’ for November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Because I really believe that the Tarot is a brilliant tool for writing and writers that isn’t utilized nearly enough, I created a challenge around CampNaNoWriMo. I called it the #30DayTarotWritingChallenge. The idea was that each day I would create a Tarot spread for participants to utilize during their writing process. It would correspond to novel structure, character development, world-building, etc.

So 30 days to write a novel, 30 tarot spreads to help the process.

Here’s what I learned in doing this.

1. Plan Ahead

Be sure to map out what you plan to do all the way to the end. Having the beginning is great, but it’s a killer once you get past those first few posts and you realized you didn’t plan past them.

I had actually been thinking of doing a podcast around this idea for a while, and then–all of a sudden–I realized it was March 29th, and that April was just around the corner. I thought–hey, I could do this instead!

With this flash of inspiration, I thought all of about 3 posts ahead and that was it.

This left me struggling along the way to create a plan for the full 30 days along the way, as well as discovering structure as stumbled into the month of April.

2. Prep Ahead

Get as many posts at the very minimum outlined ahead of time. Make it as easy on your future self as possible. If you can, try and get at least 10 posts written ahead of time (if your challenge is meant to go on for long enough, that is). You’ll thank yourself later.

Along with planning ahead, I really needed to prep ahead. Because Tarot spreads are visual, I had to create images to go along with each post. With each Tarot spread came an image that I also needed to be fit for Instagram and Pintrest. In some cases, I made one for each.

While I might have had a good grasp on the content I was creating and what I wanted the spread to cover, it was taking me another hour, at least, to create the image as well. Each post was taking upward of 2.5 hours (not inlcuding the ‘My Accountability’ section, which I’ll get to later). This is fine except that I had other posts that are pre-promised to go on each day, totally three posts a day.

This was really eating up my time.

3. Set Deadlines

It’s really easy to forget or get distracted from a goal if you don’t have deadlines. I found that when I knew that I had a time that I had to meet, I was far more likely to get that post ready and done at that time.

That beings said, remember that no one else actually knows your deadline. I mean, if they’re paying attention and you have a huge following, they might know that your challenge will be posted at 12:20 sharp, but the majority of people aren’t going to clock onto that. So, it’s cool if you’re like, seven minutes late (but eight minutes is really pushing it).

4. Don’t Get Too Ambitious

Make sure that you can fulfil your promise to your audience. Dreaming big is excellent, and never quash that, but make sure you have the ability to do everything you’d like to do in one challenge.

Along side promising to provide these daily Tarot spreads (and having to market them and have them posted by 9:30 every morning so that morning people could get up, do the spread and write–I’m considerate like that), I also made the promise to do the spreads myself and post the results.


Never mind writing the actual post, it was taking an additional 45 minutes to write out my own spread and post that along with the entry. So, for example, on my World-Building Spread, I was doing the reading and writing how I was going to incorporate it into my story. I had a First Scene Spread where I mapped out my first scene with the Tarot. I had a spread to decide Theme, and so on.

This is fine. I truly believe that I could make this work. Except that I didn’t have time to write my project and create a story along side of this challenge. So that sort of fell apart.

Note: Since finishing the challenge, I’ve started a completely different project, though using this challenge, and it’s worked a treat–having time makes all the difference!

5. But Seriously, Plan Ahead–Research

Give yourself enough time to prepare and plan. Rushing things at the last minute is going to show, unless you’ve got some amazing juice, in which case–market that. I will back you.

My biggest mistake was that I had the idea, thought I could just figure it out as I went, and just dove into it. It resulted in getting up at 5 in the morning to write and have the post ready the day of, and a lot of that time spent was researching what it was I needed to cover that I hadn’t yet.

Part of this too is making a list of your weak points, and preparing for them. I thought that I knew story structure enough to write 30 posts related to it. Turns out I didn’t. So, there was a lot of reading I had to do.

6. Forgive Yourself

Setting a challenge–especially a long challenge (as in more than five days) is really difficult. I personally didn’t realize how difficult it was until I did it. There were days when I didn’t meet my deadline time. There was one day when I let my boss take me out to an open mic night and had a hangover so bad my stomach was bleeding (I did zero posts that day).

Sickness happens. Situations happen. Life happens. And these happenings will delay you.

Forgive yourself when it happens. No one is perfect, and while you might get held to a high standard because your website is awesome, people still recognize that they’re following a person, and that people are not perfect. So forgive yourself, because I promise they will forgive you.

7. Celebrate

When you’re done–give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate. It is not an easy feat, and once you complete it, you should really feel proud of yourself. You’ve done something awesome. It doesn’t matter how many people participated in the challenge or how far it spread, at the end of the day, you set a goal and completed it.

Buy yourself a brownie, or a pineapple, or youknow, whatever treat treats you best.

This challenge was really difficult, but I’m really glad I did it. I really did feel acomplished afterward.

And even though it was difficult, and was so stressful sometimes I thought about just throwing in the towel, I learned a lot from doing it. And in learning so much, I am better prepared for the next one–and yeah, there’s going to be a next one. After all, I think it’s July there’s another CampNaNoWriMo? Either way, I’ll be prepared.

3 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from Creating a Writing Challenge

  1. I actually learned a lot from those posts. I didn’t realize how much of my storytelling is basically whatever I feel like writing whenever I feel like writing it. Which is probably why I don’t have any of the 5 stories I’ve started done. It seems I really like coming up with the idea or the characters but actually staying focused (through even the boring parts of writing)? Sigh. Come July I’ll have to finish one of these. Do people really finish a novel in a month?
    thanks for the effort, it does help with focus to have the challenge there even if I couldn’t meet it.
    Peace ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • yay! Thank you so much for following the challenge! And like I said in this post–forgive yourself if you don’t get where you want to go during a challenge. Writing in general is hard work, and I think unless you write, like you and I do, people really don’t see how difficult it can actually be.
      It is totally possible to write a novel in a month–I’ve done it a couple of times. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take another year or two of revising and editing, but the first draft gets done, definitely. When I do it, I set myself a word goal for the day (if I’m doing NaNoWriMo, then it’s 1,677), and turn the screen off of my computer and start typing. Even when I don’t know what to write, I just keep going, even if I’m writing crappy dialogue or mulling a thought around in my character’s head for the whole word count. It’s putting words down, and that’s the important thing. You can get rid of it later. But what that does is form the habit of just writing and letting it flow, and from there you can break through the boring bits. Write the boring bits and remember that they’re just a frame work to build something exciting on.
      If you need an accountability buddy, I’d love to help you out 🙂 I could do with one of those too! Also, for selfish reasons, I just want to read your stories 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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